Category Archives: Youth

Common Ground

As the Formation and Vocation Ministries Team continues to explore how we can empower ministries that bridge generation gaps, we are frequently blessed with stories of amazing transformation. Episcopal News Service correspondent Sharon Sheridan recently authored a story of an initiative in Alaska that demonstrates the power of finding common ground across generations, institutions, communities, and cultures.

“They say music’s a universal language. To the Rev. Belle Mickelson of the Diocese of Alaska, it’s also a healer and community builder.” – excerpt from ENS Correspondent Sharon Sheridan’s story

Photo from ENS story courtesy of Dancing with the Spirit

Click here to connect with the powerful story of transformation through music in which Mickelson has been a catalyst for invitation, inspiration, and transformation by discerning that amazing place where discernment leads to the good and right use of giftedness, passion, collaboration, and need.

Please join in our prayers of praise and gratitude for Mickelson’s faithfulness in following her call, and Sheridan’s faithfulness in sharing the story so that we all might be moved to find common ground to bridge the gaps that separate us from God and from one another.

If you have a story of transformation through bridging gaps, we want to help you share it. Please submit your story ideas to our team’s social media consultant with “Episcopal Generations” in the subject line of your submission.

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Filed under Adults, Children, Lifelong Formation, Older Adults, Young Adults, Youth

Youth and Young Adult Formation Survey

The Episcopal Formation Collaborative is a new initiative of the Center for Ministry and Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary. We seek to gather, create, and critique resources and best practices in response to identified needs of Christian formation practitioners in the Episcopal Church.

The first initiative of the Episcopal Formation Collaborative will be to strengthen and grow Episcopal Christian formation ministries with youth (approximately 6th through 12th grades) and young adults (18 – 30 years); collectively known as young people.

We need your help and input so we know how best to serve you!
Complete the short survey to share what is working well, what resources you need, and what challenges you are facing in ministry with young people. This initial survey will close August 31, 2012.

Our vision for the Episcopal Formation Collaborative is to build on the strengths of the Episcopal Church in mission by:

  • Fostering an action-reflection model for lived faith and ministry that continually engages people of all ages and their leaders in the process of their own formation;
  • Gathering, creating, and promoting resources and methods that are Biblically sound and congruent with Episcopal theology; and
  • Offering ideas, tools, and best practices grounded in the baptismal covenant and honoring of cultural context.

Ultimately, our dream is to provide a dynamic environment in which church leaders are invited, inspired, and transformed to become hopeful, engaged, committed Christians in the world. For more information, please go to our website at

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. Thank you for your help and we look forward to partnering with you in ministry.

The Rev. Shannon Kelly
Projector Coordinator and Curator  
Founder of Episcopal Formation Collaborative

Dr. Lisa Kimball
Principal Collaborator and Curator
Founder of Episcopal Formation Collaborative

NOTE FROM FORMATION AND VOCATION MINISTRIES TEAM: Jason, Ruth-Ann, and Bronwyn are very aware of a great desire across the church for a central location for resources. We are also aware of many different groups and organizations that have passion on working collaboratively on such an initiative as well as resource development. Please contact us to get connected on this collaboration if you or your organization has positive energy and resources to share in this mission. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you up to date on developments!


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Filed under Adults, Campus Ministry, Lifelong Formation, Young Adults, Youth

Elders + Youngers with Desmond Tutu

Every now and then we run actross an intersting article or blog post that fits perfectly with the themes of the Episcopal Generations Project. Today Archbishop Desmond Tutu is featured at HuffPost Green.We encourage you to check it out. Describing himself as one of the “Elders,” he said the following about some of the “Youngers:”

Their positive vision and relentless energy fills me with hope. I want to believe that the next generation of leaders will be bolder, more global in their outlook and more committed to making decisions for the common good, rather than the short-sightedness and narrow interests we have witnessed in the last 20 years.

Click here to read the entire post.

We encourage Elders and Younger in congregations across the Episcopal Church to engage inter-generational dialogue like this, discussing how you and your congregation live the Marks of Mission.

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Filed under Adults, Campus Ministry, Lifelong Formation, Older Adults, Uncategorized, Young Adults, Youth


On the day God created humanity, he made them to resemble God

– Genesis 5:1 Common English Bible

Human creativity leads to innovation. Innovation leads us to doing things differently. When we cease to think creatively, we no longer innovate, and our progress is arrested. Stagnate is the next word that comes to mind, or maintenance mode. Then the inevitable phrase , “But we’ve always done it that way.” And now we are truly stuck for a time in a comfortable space, until attrition and boredom set in and all of a sudden we are in survival mode. Our next tendency is to desperately try to re-create something that used to work, hoping it will work again, stifling real creativity that may lead to innovation.

I heard a very compelling comment, once upon a time, from my friend and colleague Emily Slichter Given. As she was addressing a room full of church leaders she proclaimed, “If all you’re doing is maintenance and there is no creativity, please go do it somewhere else. You’re killing the church.” It was a bold and brilliant statement. And I took it to heart when I heard it three years ago. I invite you to heed her words as well. It’s time to find the colorful pencils and sharpen them, at least metaphorically speaking.

As the Formation and Vocation Ministries Team continues to explore the notion of Episcopal Generations and bridging gaps, we’re inviting you to identify the gaps in your faith communities, and then engage creative discernment to address the challenge. How are you going to bridge the gap? During a recent workshop at the Forming Disciples conference in the Diocese of Texas we recognized that bridging gaps can be challenging and often presents a conflict when addressed. We agreed that when conflict is well-managed, remembering that we are called to respect the dignity of every human being, it can provide a rich environment in which we can be creative and even innovative. But the facilitation must be balanced so that all passions and concerns are heard, discussed, and addressed, grounded in faith and trust.

A study of Exemplary Youth Ministry noted that “churches who are deeply influencing the faith lives of young men and women (have) a culture of the whole church that is most influential in nurturing youth of vital Christian Faith. The genius of these churches seems best described as a systemic mix of theology, values, people, relationships, expectations, and activities. It appears that a culture of the Spirit emerges with its pervasive and distinct dynamics and atmosphere that is more powerful than its component parts.” (The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry, EYM Publishing, St. Paul, MN, 2010) From the same study it has also been noted that “Culture is transmitted from one generation to the next through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art.”

The workshop participants considered these findings and also spent some time identifying their own generational characteristics as described in our blog post, What is a Generation?. We considered our working definition of a Generation Gap, and in the following discussion agreed that identifying specific gaps and engaging creative methods for addressing them could lead to innovative ways to shift the culture of an entire congregation.

At my invitation, five individuals agreed to share with me gaps they had identified in their own congregations. I have pledged to pray for Stephanie, Suzy, Parker, David and Erin and their congregations. They have each identified gaps that they pledge to try to bridge in their home faith communities. They will share their stories with me to then share with you. They are working on everything from developing intentional community for elementary age children, to uniting different women’s groups around a single mission, to engaging ministry for the family as a whole, to taking on a technology gap, to making liturgy more accessible and meaningful for youth, young adults, and middle adults all at the same time. We have all acknowledged that failure is not an option; they will learn from the outcome of their efforts whether their goal is reached or not. Sometimes things come out differently than we desired or expected. If we acknowledge those moments with grace and utilize the opportunity to learn and to engage creative process again, then all is success.

What gaps have you bridged in your faith community? Please join me in praying for these five creative innovators and send your stories to share so that others might learn.

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Filed under Adults, Lifelong Formation, Older Adults, Young Adults, Youth

The Scary Work of Mentoring Samuel

On the Second Sunday after Epiphany, we read an excerpt from the story of Samuel, a boy given to the Lord by his mother. The reading is from the first book of Samuel, chapter 3, verses 1 through 20 and offers a story of mentoring that has both some common and some difficult lessons to teach about what it is to be a mentor.

To summarize:

In the story, Samuel is lying in the temple of the Lord. Eli, his teacher, has gone to bed. Samuel hears a voice calling his name. “Samuel! Samuel!” He gets up and goes to Eli, thinking the older man has summoned him. Eli sends him back, saying simply, “I did not call.” This happens a second time and a third, before Eli understands that it is perhaps the Lord calling to him. Eli instructs him on what to say if he is called a fourth time, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel does as he is told and receives difficult words of destruction upon the house of his teacher. Samuel is afraid to tell Eli the next day, forcing Eli to demand that the boy tells him what he has heard. With this, the mantle of the trustworthy prophet is passed to Samuel.

You can of course draw your own lessons from the story read in this way, but we can begin by drawing out a few questions here.  We invite you to perhaps use this particular passage as one to begin conversations and reflections around mentoring in your community. (What other scriptures have helped you reflect on the role of the mentor?)

God Speaking

The scripture begins by saying that, “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” Perhaps this is meant to offer explanation for both Eli’s delayed understanding that the call is from God and Samuel’s lack of recognition of God’s voice. In our own day, how often is the church as a mentoring body hesitant to understand that God might be speaking directly to (and through) those that come after us? Are we so convinced of the Lord’s silence ourselves that we are obstinate about seeing the word of God present in the culture that surrounds us?

Real Tools and Skills

Upon realizing that God is speaking to Samuel, Eli doesn’t fret that God is not speaking directly to him. Instead he looks in his experience and empowers and equips Samuel to both hear and respond to God’s words. As in much of the old Testament there is no tentativeness in teaching. God did not say to Moses, “Moses, why don’t you go and say something like: Pharoah, Let my people go. You know, but in your own words.” There is an empowerment in directness and in giving tangible tools for engaging in God’s work. Our tradition is full of these tools. How can our mentoring offer real skills for faith leadership in today’s world? How can we draw on our individual experiences to create tangible tools for instruction?

Hard Words

The scary part of this story is that God doesn’t share nice words with Samuel about his mentor. Once we equip others with tools and lay ourselves vulnerable as mentors, we must prepare ourselves for the consequences, and we must make safe spaces for those we mentor to do the difficult work to which they are called. We can see that the church is returning to the margins of society after 1500 years at its center. We can see the crisis and confusion this is creating at every level of the church. We must change. And we must trust that those we mentor will be part of that change, which means the news they share will more often than not be difficult to hear. Are we prepared for these words? Are we prepared to listen for God and accept his word when it comes, trusting we have taught them well?

What other questions and reflections does the passage evoke in you?

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Filed under Lifelong Formation, Young Adults, Youth

Mentoring from Generation to Generation…

As the senior member of our Formation & Vocation team I have been blessed to have had many amazing mentors over the years. After reading Bronwyn’s blog I spent time this week reflecting on those mentors who have come and gone in my life. How their willingness to share their wisdom has challenged me, comforted me, encouraged and delighted me. And how these gifts continue to this day to impact all aspects of my life; professional, politically, familial and spiritually. Although there were many lessons learned a few stand out and still continue to inform who I am.

In the mid seventies I had fast tracked into a corporate position, which put me close to the top of the executive ladder. I was prepared for the work, but not for the accepted industry dominated culture of white males over the age of 50 holding positions of power. This was my first lesson about personal and positional power. Fortunately, Mr. Ernest Brown an Executive Vice President took interest in me and afforded to me a safe place to vent and exhale when the pressure of having my abilities challenged because of my gender put me on the brink of public tears. This was an industry like as in baseball, as Tom Hanks said in the movie A league of their own. “There’s no crying in Baseball.”

One particular time when I was sharing with Mr. Brown my most recent tale of woe, about how unjust the system was (and he agreed it was) he said I had a choice; I could give up or fight for change. If I gave up I was on my own, if I fought he was behind me all the way. Why did I fight? Why were his words so significant and powerful? I respected and trusted him and admired his deep devotion to his Christian faith. For he himself lived what he “preached”. Mr. Brown had fought a far greater challenge than I had before me. As a bright young black man of sixteen when he first started working for this very same company, because of the color of his skin he was not allowed to eat lunch in the same restaurant as his co-workers. Mr. Brown had a mentor (the Jewish owner of the company, who after young Ernest started working for him began having lunch brought in) who did for him that which Mr. Brown was promising to do for me. His only condition was that I would commit myself always to fight for justice and that I would never use my station in life as an excuse not to use to the fullest the gifts God has blessed me with.

I have learned from him exactly what Bronwynis encouraging us all to do as “a community faith we are called to live in a way that invites those we seek to mentor to live with intentionality, to practice their agency with greater discernment.”  We are called to share from generation to generation the wisdom that we learn along the way. When I reflect on a Jewish owner in the 1950’s mentoring a Black man who mentors a white women in the 70’s I hope that in some small way I have continued to mentor in a way which honors Mr. Brown. I know that in my years of mentoring others the true blessing has been the deepening of my own faith life in ways that I have yet to realize.

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Filed under Adults, Campus Ministry, Children, Lifelong Formation, Older Adults, Young Adults, Youth

Cultivating A Mentoring Culture

In many of our congregations there exist the obvious opportunities for mentoring: baptism, confirmation, the incorporation of new ushers and altar guild members, and of course the newcomers’ class.  In most of these instances, we take “mentoring” to mean an intensive, teaching-heavy, formalized way of being in relationship with another person or group of people.

But what if we redefined mentoring as something more subtle and organic, as an intentional way of being present to the world and our neighbors that takes into account our power to influence and our power to liberate.

In a sense, youth and young adults are constantly being mentored whether they like it or not. Forces outside their control are constantly barraging them with value-laden messages, images of the “good life,” and an infinite number of possible ways of being in the world.

Like mentors these cultural messages and experiences accompany them through the ups and downs of their lives, provide a sounding board against which they test their own values and behaviors, and both validate and admonish them for their choices.  This cultural mentoring often happens without their even being conscious of it.

We might think then that our role as mentors is to simply provide a cultural alternative, one where young people test their values and behaviors against the images and stories of the Christian tradition. While this is part of what providing a mentoring culture might mean, it is not the whole of it.

As Christians we follow “the way.” We are people of intentionality and of process. Part of our work must be to call attention to the very fact that the cultural influences are present and the choices being made, to call the process of cultural mentoring out into the open. In order to do this we as communities of faith are called live in a way that invites those we seek to mentor to live with intentionality, to practice their agency with greater discernment.

This type of mentoring may be as simple as calling attention to the text of a hymn that presents an image of God that resonates with you, or of explaining why in your parish you choose to do Eucharistic Prayer A instead of D, and making space for the young person to voice their opinion.  They may not agree, but you will have empowered them to figure out what they believe with greater intentionality, to have called their conscious attention to the bigger questions of faith and values.

How would creating this type of mentoring community change how we invite young people into our churches? How might it affect the importance we place on the catechism and on the various elements of the liturgy?  And perhaps most importantly, how might preparing to be this kind of mentor provide an opportunity for deepening our own faith lives?

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Filed under Lifelong Formation, Young Adults, Youth